Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A change of focus

For those of you who have been wondering where I've been lately, I've decided to take a break from taking photos at the marsh and posting to the blog.  This is the fifth year I have been recording the wildlife I've seen there, and the third year I've been blogging about it.  I started using the French Basin Trail as a way of getting aerobic exercise, and feel I need to get back to using it for that purpose.  So for the time being I will not be posting photos to the blog.  I will continue to walk the trail, just not with a camera!  Thanks to all of you who have been faithful followers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

They've hatched!

I've been keeping an eye on the grebe nest that I finally discovered.  Yesterday it appears that they have hatched.  Mom was still on the nest, with dad close by at the left.  I think I can make out three, possibly four hatchlings here. 

Fish catcher extraodinaire

On Sunday I got this so-so shot of a belted kingfisher after it had caught and eaten a minnow.  It's difficult to get close enough to get a decent shot of these birds, as they are very skittish.  This one is a male - the female has a rusty 'belt' across its breast, below the gray one.

All by its lonesome

I could not believe I happened upon another skunk on last Friday's walk.  This one was smaller than the previous pair we had seen with their mother, and all by its lonesome.  Probably something had happened to its mother, which is unfortunate, as skunk kits spend the first year or so with their mother, who teaches them to hunt for food and protects them from predators.  This little one made some defensive moves when I got close (top shot), then moved off into the grass and settled down for a nap (bottom shot).

Two-way traffic

Last Friday I made it to the marsh a little earlier than usual, when there was still dew on some of the plants and the tiny snails are were still out and about.  These two were slowly inching their way up - and down - a blade of grass.

Still in residence

In case you're wondering what has happened to the Canada geese at the marsh, they are still very much present, although not usually on the path as they were when the goslings were younger.  Now they seem to spend their time out on the water or feeding or resting on one of the islands or berms.  As you can see, now it's hard to distinguish between the adults and their offspring.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Birds of a feather

With two days of unusual encounters, I wondered what day three would bring.  I wasn't disappointed yesterday when I checked out the path that runs from the French Basin Trail past the sailing school.  I could see several somethings in the path some distance ahead of me, definitely larger than sparrows.  When I tried to get closer, they quickly dispersed, some running along the path, some flying into the tall grass.  I know this shot doesn't do justice, but I think what I saw was a covey of ruffed grouse.  There had to have been eight or ten of the birds.  When I retraced my steps after waiting to see if they would emerge from the grasses, three burst out of the grasses and flew off.

Raccoon encounter

Monday it was skunks. Tuesday it was raccoons.  I could hardly believe my eyes when I spotted these two little critters on the path that runs from St. Anthony Street across to Prince Albert Road, where it meets up with the French Basin Trail.  It's not usual to see raccoons in the daytime (or skunks, for that matter).  Whether this pair had lost their mother is hard to say - possibly she got stuck inside one of the composting bins behind the Legion, which wouldn't be the first time.  Anyway, I kept watching these little guys to see what they were up to - they appeared to be searching for grubs or what have you in the grass alongside the path - until they ventured to where I was standing and began to explore my foot!  When one of them started to climb my leg, I quickly removed myself.  That explains the startled looks on their faces in the last shot. 

Caught in the act

The marsh is the ideal habitat for berry-bearing trees and shrubs, which of course attract many species of birds.   It seems some don't wait until the berries ripen, as evidenced by many of the choke cherry sprigs being minus their berries.  On Tuesday I noticed robins feeding in a serviceberry tree, plus this female purple finch.  She flew into this gray birch when I walked by.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Our for a stroll

This morning held another first in store for me at the marsh.  I never know from one day to the next what I will encounter there.  My son and I were nearing the end of the trail, although we were off to the side trying to get shots of some damselflies, when a women who was walking her dog came along and said, "There's a skunk!"  Sure enough, several feet further along the trail, we could see what looked like a couple of skunks.  We started snapping pictures and moved a little closer, then were able to see that there were three skunks - an adult and two kits - and they were moving our way!  They didn't stop until they were directly across from us - we on one side of the trail, they on the other.  That's when I took the first shot, with 'mom' in the centre.  We watched to see what they would do, as the dog was getting a little excited - they did turn their backs to us and raise their tails (bottom shot), but that was the extent of it.  Thank goodness!  They finally turned and disappeared into the tall grass.  

Apparently skunks, although their smell and hearing is very good, can only see clearly for about three metres, which may explain why they moved toward us rather than away from us.

Shades of Bambi

As I was walking through the wooded section of the trail on Friday, I happened to look to the left - right into the eyes of this young doe standing just off the trail.  I stood and watched her for several minutes as she browsed, periodically looking my way to make sure I wasn't a threat.  She eventually moved off into the woods.

Feeding time

This female red-winged blackbird kept moving from one perch to another when I came close to her territory on Friday.  I could see she was carrying something in her beak, so I waited patiently until she landed where I could get a decent shot of her.  I think that's a grasshopper she's holding.  She had just stretched her wings prior to my taking this shot, that's why she looks all fluffed up.

Bee scarcity?

The multiflora roses, which grow and spread as profusely at the marsh as they do elsewhere, are nearing the end of their blooming time.  On Friday I happened to catch what I believe to be a female worker honey bee gathering pollen from blossoms that hadn't yet gone by.  I have to say I haven't seen that many honey bees this season, not a good sign.